Rome (AFP) - Italy on Sunday called for an emergency summit of European Union leaders following the latest migrant boat tragedy in the Mediterranean.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Rome would be seeking the extraordinary meeting after up to 700 people were feared to have drowned when a boat carrying them towards Italy capsized off Libya.
"We are working to ensure this meeting can be held by the end of the week. It has to be a priority," Renzi told a press conference, describing the people smuggling behind the migrant crisis as "scourge" that Europe had to address.
The Italian initiative came as the EU came under fire over what NGOs termed a tragedy that may have been avoided if Italy had maintained its large-scale search-and-rescue operation off its southern shores.
The Mare Nostrum mission was suspended at the end of last year after Italy's EU partners refused to help with the ongoing cost of running it amid a bitter row over whether the life-saving operation was unintentionally encouraging migrants and asylum-seekers to attempt the perilous crossing from north Africa to Europe.